Salimos temprano porque nos esperaba un largo día. La ruta estaba cortada por una huelga, asique tuvimos que meternos entre los campos hasta pasar el corte de ruta. Apenas pasamos el corte llegamos a la frontera, y aunque no había casi gente, los ecuatorianos se tomaron su tiempo para hacer los papeles del auto. Después de almorzar unos pancitos, seguimos hasta Guayaquil. El GPS mucho no ayudó y nos desvió un poco, asique nos demoramos un poco más. Llegamos finalmente a destino cerca de las 6 de la tarde. Al día siguiente, fuimos a visitar la plaza principal, donde está la catedral. Lo insólito de esta plaza es que está llena de iguanas que trajeron de las Islas Galápagos, y también tiene un estanque con tortugas de cola larga que trajeron de las islas. Después visitamos el Malecón que bordea el río Guayas, tiene varios monumentos, un jardín botánico, juegos para chicos y un mercado artesanal. El miércoles nos preparamos para ir a buscar a los abus al aeropuerto. Los chicos estaban súper ansiosos. Al día siguiente, les mostramos a los abus el Malecón y las iguanas y partimos hacia nuestro próximo destino: Cuenca.
Zorritos to Guayaquil
We started relatively early on our way to Guayaquil (Ecuador) since we had a border crossing and we were told the drive would be anywhere between three to five hours. It turned out to be a gruesome seven and a half hours. Before arriving at the border (less than an hour away from Zorritos) we hit a roadblock set up by people in a ‘huelga’ (strike). The police said that it would eventually be cleared but suggested we follow the minibuses that were turning around and driving through the narrow dirt/mud roads bordering the rice fields. After a few wrong turns we emerged on the other side of the roadblock and headed straight to customs. Because of the blocked road we were the only ones in customs and we got everything done relatively fast (about one and a half hours for both sides). Unlike when entering Perú no one asked for ‘cariño’ (literally ‘affection’) at the border although this would change a little later. After a few hours of driving on a one-lane road with heavy traffic on both directions we sped all the way to 115 km/h (71 mph) on a ~2 mile stretch of two-lane road that had a posted max speed of 100 km/h (62 mph). About a mile down this highway we were flagged down and informed of our serious offense. They pulled their booklet and made us read our offense (same strategy as in Perú where we were pulled for driving with our headlights on during the day). The first officer to talk to us said it would cost us $35 and 6 points on our license (?), the second $45 and the third said we would have to stay three (3) days in town. As usual we agreed to pay the fine and stay and the officers grew inpatient. In the meantime M and T got down of the car to pee and poop and show we were in no hurry. Finally the officer asked that we give him something for the ‘ceviche’ (typical raw fish dish) and later made himself clear by asking for five dollars. We denied (‘We don’t do that in my country’), he threatened again to give us a ticket and then threw the documents back at us and clarified that with a foreign license plate he couldn’t give us a ticket (thanks for the hint!).
The border crossing marked a striking difference between the peruvian ever-lasting coast desert and the lush ecuatorian greenery with mile after mile of banana and cacao plantations. Between the border and Guayaquil every truck and pick-up truck was overfilled with green bananas.
For lunch we ended having pastries from a ‘panaderia’ and quickly realized bread is much better in Ecuador than in Perú. Bakeries in Perú sell essentially plain bread in different shapes but in Ecuador bread is enriched with fruits, cheese, etc (the bread with a hint of pineapple was delicious).
During our long drive to Guayaquil we came across countless (sometimes unmarked) speed bumps randomly spread along the road. At almost every speed bump vendors pile up trying to sell anything from fresh fruits to cell-phone chargers. When drivers stop to make a purchase they stay on the road blocking traffic.
Guayaquil is a big city, Ecuador’s most populous, but has few attractions. We spent most of our time at the Malecón, a 2 km stretch of coastline transformed into a recreation site with shops, restaurants, museums, parks, gardens, etc. The other highlight was the park filled with iguanas and tortoises brought from Galapagos. The iguanas don’t care about people and just lie all over the park. The ones on tree branches seem to enjoy peeing right on top of tourists’ heads.
Excitement had been building up for a few days expecting the arrival of the grandparents. We had not planned on visiting Guayaquil but changed route so that we could pick them at the airport and start our visit of Ecuador together. M and T just couldn’t wait the last few days and were delighted to be able to hug them when they came through customs. We will be going to Cuenca, Baños, Cotopaxi and Quito together.